Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Am A Liberal

Well, friends, I am starting to string some sentences together to start working on my next book, which will be called "Now, What's Left?"

The first thing I have to do is put together a book proposal, which is kind of a big job, but - the good news is that when it's done, you've really done the hardest part of writing the book.

So, in preparation for the proposal, I'm sort of synopsizing everything that's been rattling around in my head that I want to be a part of this book, and one of the things I ended up doing was making a list of the reasons I am a liberal.

I'm sure I'll think of more, but... here goes!

This is what being a liberal means to me:
·      I believe that freedom means freedom for everyone, not just me and mine;
·      I believe in not only personal responsibility but shared responsibility towards the group of which I am a part;
·      I believe that leadership does not equal dominance
·      I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, not because of what they have but because of who they are – human. I do not believe that someone who has more than I do is more worthy than I am, and I do not believe that someone who has less than I do is less worthy.
·      I believe that each individual’s religious belief (or non-belief) should be respected, but it should not infringe upon others’ belief, non-belief, or personal freedom and that religion and government should be separate – for the good of both.
·      I believe that the qualities of tolerance and empathy are not the same as ‘moral relativity’ (whatever that actually means), but are expressions of the Golden Rule and moral values to which I am proud to aspire.
·      When people disparage ‘diversity’ (always said with the little eye-roll), I assume they prefer inbreeding.
·      I believe that there are some things that government is better equipped to deal with than private enterprise; that there is room for both. I do not believe government should be run like a business, and I do not believe that private enterprise should be run like the government.
·      I believe that the areas that include shared life-and-death resources (clean air, fresh water, safe food, transportation infrastructure, judicial and legal infrastructure, essential [not elective] medical care, military defense), and education for all, should be administered, overseen, and protected without a profit motive by a body that is accountable to the people – that is, government.
·      I respect tradition, but not for tradition’s sake only; I embrace change, but not change for change’s sake. For each I ask myself, “Is it necessary?”
·      If I claim freedom for myself, I need to extend it to others in return. Civil rights are rights conferred upon citizens, and civil marriage is one of those rights. No one should be guaranteed a religious marriage; that is up to the tenets of that particular religion and not the business of government. But civil marriage recognized by the state grants rights, benefits and responsibilities to married couples that all citizens who wish to marry the person they love should be able to benefit from – and be responsible for.
·      I believe basic health care is a right, and not only that, but a benefit to society that saves money to all Americans in the long run. I believe that national single payer health care, administered (but not provided) by the government, is the most cost-effective and fair way to ensure that no person is denied care because they can’t afford it, or goes bankrupt because of an illness or accident.
The argument that health care should not be called a ‘right’ because no doctor shoud be forced to care for an ill person against their will makes no sense. Emergency rooms are already mandated to care for anyone who comes in regardless of their ability to pay; the cost is astronomical and borne by the taxpayers anyway.
No one should die because they can’t afford care, and if the costs of medical care are shared in a large enough pool that includes healthy people as well as sick people, then medical costs will be more affordale all round. This is nothing more than insurance, taken to its logical conclusion – but without the profit motive that takes precious dollars away from health care. No other industrialized nation allows insurance for profit; even private insurance is non-profit. It is immoral to me to enrich myself at the cost of human health and life. Not only that but it is a drain and an expense that society must pay for in terms of lost productivity, lost wages, families thrown into poverty (and the public dole) – so it is actually cheaper and more efficient on many, many levels for society to manage health care.
If I wish to have a 5-star hotel-room hospital experience, or get elective plastic surgery to indulge my vanity – by all means, let the market take care of that! If you want it and can afford it and an insurer wants to make a profit from that, go for it.
Private, for-profit insurance for things like cars, houses, travel, flood, hurricane, fire and other things that you choose to have in your life that cost a lot to replace is perfectly useful as far as I’m concerned, but in matters of a human life it is unconscionable.
·      I believe that government is US – We the People – and, as flawed as it can be, it is answerable to us. Private enterprise in charge of public needs is NOT answerable to us (See California’s disastrous power deregulation and susequent grotesque theft from the people of CA for a good example of what the lure of the profit motive can lead to with public utilities.) Privatization is not the answer to what’s wrong with government.
·      I do not believe that the Invisible Hand of the Free Market will make everything hunky-dory with the economy. I think that is a willful misinterpretation from Adam Smith that Republicans accept as fact because it favors the interests of Big Business to do so. I do not believe that ‘free markets’ are free if all the power is on one side of the equation.
·      I do not believe that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs. All they do is add to the deficit and give Republicans an excuse to cut social programs in the name of ‘deficit reduction’.
·      I do not believe you can ‘cut’ your way out of a depression (pardon me – a recession.) by belt-tightening. Just ask Hoover – or go visit a Hooverville. I hear they’re quite the ‘coming thing’.
·      I believe that workers have the right to organize and negotiate with the companies they work for. Otherwise, it becomes a race to the bottom for the cheapest labor – leading to the demise of American jobs, massive outsourcing and the demand for, not just immigrant labor, but illegal immigrant labor (basically slave labor) – as a business model! Union wages keep non-union wages high as well, leading to a strong economy where there are consumers who can afford to buy things that cost a little more. It’s a race to the top instead of the bottom.
·      I also believe in reasonable regulation. If we had had reasonable regulation in place over the last 15 years, we would not be in an economic collapse only rivalled in the last century by the Great Depression. There is a middle ground between micro-managing and reasonable regulation, but the corporate powers-that-be treat any attempt to oversee financial matters as the grossest of meddling, nit-picking, and job-killing. That, of course, is their strategy. It’s called ‘working the refs’ and it has worked like a charm for them. For us? Not so much. Even a football game has rules.
·      I believe that justice and the rule of law should not be for sale to the highest bidder.
·      I believe that elections should be financed by the public to ensure that politicians are not purchased by corporations and that the important work of our nation is not disrupted by 24/7 fundraising once a candidate is elected. I don’t believe a congressperson should be under the thumb of corporate money, and subject to the pressure of having an opponent financed by a corporation if that congressperson doesn’t ‘play ball’. I also do not believe that there should be a revolving door between Congress and K Street once that Congressperson leaves office.
·      I believe we overlook conflicts of interest at our peril.
·      I do not believe that military dominance of the world is the way to keep America safe.
·      I do not believe that we should ever pre-emptively attack another nation, and that war should be the last of last resorts in self-defense. Real last resort, not pretend, made-up ‘last resort’ that was actually the first resort. I wish there was no reason for war at all, but if we do go into combat, we should take care of our soldiers both in and out of the service, for as long as they need it. It is the least we can do for the men and women of whom we have asked the unspeakable. David Swanson is right; war is a crime. I wish I were smart enough to figure out how to keep our governments from engaging in them.

Well, it's a start...

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